THE HOPPER POETRY PRIZE
We are pleased to announce that David Axelrod is runner-up for The Hopper Poetry Prize for his manuscript Cold Mornings of the Northern Spring.
Like the composer Haydn whose “mind [was] poised / at the verge of a new, more / helpful era / aspired to, but never reached,” the narrator of these poems at once celebrates and laments the loss of the “elsewhere long ago,” a place of “bounty,” the “ripening greens” near Glacier Peak, the headwaters of five rivers. Typically silent, like the sorrow monkey in the collection’s epigraph, the poet on the verge of a “diminishing range” turns to “words / old as aggregate memory . . . to “[find a] haven every night” before a vision of the “future . . . drilled in privation.” The language is dense, lush with familiarities: “devil’s strip,” “the bitterroot foothills,” the “first cuttings of alfalfa, musky buckbrush leaves.” Like the title of one of the poems, the journey through this “otherworld” is a “Song of Extinctions,” a catalogue of “What befell [these places],” what “isn’t over, much less forgiven.” As the poet guides us in our “feckless shambles” to the scenes of “dispossession”—“the abandoned smelter / scheduled for demolition,” the “forest becom[ing] a crop”—the tone is reverent, the tension palpable. It is in this tension that we feel a homesickness for “God’s failing project on earth.”
—Kathleen Hellen, author of Umberto’s Night
David Axelrod’s eighth collection of poems, The Open Hand, appeared recently from Lost Horse Press. His second collection of nonfiction, The Eclipse I Call Father: Essays on Absence is forthcoming from Oregon State University Press in the spring of 2019. Axelrod wrote the introduction, “My Interests Are People,” for About People: Photographs by Gert Berliner, which appeared in the summer of 2018 from Arts End Books. Axelrod directs the low residency MFA and Wilderness, Ecology, and Community program at Eastern Oregon University. In addition, he edits basalt: a journal of fine & literary arts, and serves on the editorial board of Lynx House Press. Enjoy a poem from Cold Mornings of the Northern Spring below.
Apostles of Imminence
We sometimes meet people
who don't want to live
in the present.
In their darned sweaters, patched trousers,
long hair lifting in wind,
they seem startled
when we happen upon them
in the forest, bogged down
along twenty miles of drifted road.
Their wagon minus its wheels,
the woman holds the team
of sway-backed horses,
as her man repacks axle bearings
in muskrat grease.
They have grown pale
with self-reliance and want
to re-litigate the past, argue history.
They are full of praise for hand-forged nails,
the striking of moveable type,
and lathing of hames.
Though for them hope went extinct,
a feathered thing, circa 1970.
And now, stranded in latter days,
they bear the melancholy burden of the past
and warn us, there is a future
only they, drilled in privation, can abide.
For the time being though,
should we help to pull them free,
they will barter with us—
goat cheese wrapped in oil cloth?
a pint of bitters?